Plastic pollution is everybody’s business
The rise in plastic pollution
Of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced every year, only 14% is collected for recycling. Crucially, only 2% of all the world’s plastic packaging is recycled in a “closed loop”, where material can be used for the same or similar kind of packaging once again. 86% of plastic packaging currently ends up in landfills and incinerators, or as litter.¹
The impact of plastic pollution
The average human now eats a credit card worth of plastic each week², and the impact on human physiology is still unknown. Microplastics have been identified in drinking water and beer, and are even falling in the rain.³
Turning off the tap
Deposit return schemes
The European average collection rate for PET plastic beverage containers in a curbside system is 47%, versus 94% for deposit systems.⁴ Drink container litter as a proportion of all litter is 66% less in regions with a DRS in place.⁵ DRSs are being evaluated as a solution to the challenge of plastic waste, because they achieve up to 98% collection rates for eligible drink containers.
RVMs scan containers’ barcodes, materials or shapes, to identify the packaging type and give the correct refund. The machine then sorts the containers into different types, such as moving refillable containers to one storage area and compacting (crushing) non-refillable containers.
RVMs benefit end users and sites collecting bottles and cans by making recycling more efficient and enjoyable, and benefit the environment by keeping container materials “in the loop”.
Clean Loop Recycling
When a bottle is returned to an RVM for recycling, it is kept separate from other kinds of waste, avoiding contamination that can make it more complex and costly to recycle. With materials remaining pure and high quality, they can be turned back into a new container, again and again. The material can stay in a closed “loop” rather than thrown away or turned into lower-quality applications that cannot be recycled again, like a park bench ("down-cycling"). It also reduces the need to extract virgin resources to produce new containers, such as oil for plastic bottles.
TOMRA calls this “Clean Loop Recycling”, and we’re striving to keep containers in the loop and out of streets and oceans. The more we put in the Clean Loop, the less we take from the planet.
There are limitless examples of how plastic pollution affects life on land as well as at sea. There is no one solution to the problem, but for a better future for our planet, we need to innovate and implement new solutions to help manage plastic waste. Deposit return and reverse vending technology give policymakers, retailers and consumers the power to play their part and make an impact in reducing pollution.
The 45 billion containers TOMRA collects each year represent only 3% of containers sold, so there's much more we can do together to stop containers ending up where they don’t belong.
1 “New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics,” World Economic Forum. January 2016.
2 "No plastic in nature: Assessing plastic ingestion from nature to people," WWF. 2019.
3 "Plastic rain in protected areas of the United States," Science. 2020.
4 DRS: Derived from GlobalData sales and redemption data from European deposit system operators. 2019. Available upon request. Curbside: “PETCORE Europe Presentation 2020,” Eunomia. 2020.
5 “Understanding the effects of marine debris on wildlife,” CSIRO. 2014.